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QRD #46 - Guitarists Interview Series
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Guitarist Interviews with:
Azalia Snail
Alan Sparhawk
Jesse Grey
Michael Seman
Robert Brown
John Booker
Steven Mitchell
Ian McPhedran
Josef Echter
Jordan Barger
Zachary Corsa
Ed Ricart
Yair Yona
Jeff Schneider
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Guitarist Interview with Jordan Barger of Arte Povera & The Diana Situation
December 2010
Name: Jordan Barger
Bands: Arte Povera, The Diana Situation
Websites: myspace.com/artepoveramusic, Soundcloud.com/personal_records
Listen to “Carrion Part II”

QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?

Jordan – An Oscar Schmidt by Washburn Acoustic with a flame-top maple style. It was my Step-Chad’s guitar before me. I found it in a closet in my house & started teaching myself in the summer of 2008 then played my first show with CJ Boyd & My Empty Phantom in winter of 2008. It’s been a great guitar since then. Although I recently broke the headstock in a show in Roanoke by throwing it. I’m surprised it’s lasted this long, my sets have been known to have theatrics including the guitar, throwing it, hitting it against cymbals etc. She’s in the shop for now; I hope she’s alright.

QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?

Jordan – Usually, the acoustic guitar through my crappy pedals (a mixture of Danelectros, homemades, & low end craigslist Boss pedals) on my awesome custom pedal board me & Step-Chad made. This all runs into my “I don’t have much money but I want something loud” 2x12 Crate. I just got some nice pedals for Christmas & I’m eyeing a Fender Twin Reverb.

QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?

Jordan – For me, it’s an understanding of how all the parts work together because of the acoustic guitar. If you’ve ever played an acoustic guitar through pedals, it’s not quite as easy. So, I’m very hesitant to borrow equipment because of that. I once borrowed an amp from Bryce Eiman for a Chapel Hill Nightlight show; when I pressed my first pedal, it was all feedback.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Jordan – I have a Crate 2x12. I have it because it’s cheap & it’s the best I could get. It isn’t a bad amp, it puts up with the constant moving I put it through with being a college student & traveling musician. I also have a small Peavey practice amp that was my dad’s. It’s like 30 watts but it’s a beast. Me & my friends call it the “instant shoegaze machine.” It has two irrelevant buttons that say “Thick” & “Saturation” that just give you this great dirty hazey tone. We use it for little jams, but it doesn’t have enough power for shows sadly. (And I’m too poor to get a PA or play venues with PAs)

QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?

Jordan – The acoustic Oscar Schmidt is what I play all my shows with as Arte Povera. It’s my show guitar because it is the perfect blend of good tone & cheap guitar to create “noise folk” with (my own little genre I’ve carved for myself). It also carries my aesthetic well. (Which is the equivalent of Gene Simmons of KISS loving his ugly axe bass)

QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?

Jordan – A hollow-body Jazzmaster with an f-hole, active delay circuitry, & lots of fret buzz.

QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?

Jordan – A combination reverb & fuzz pedal, kind of like how Devi-Ever makes those twin pedals. It would also be made of wood or Lego’s.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Jordan – Now, sadly only two. My acoustic & a Squier Jagmaster. The Squier is pretty great, but I always look at it & wish it was a Jazzmaster. Oh well, once again any guitar that puts up with me throwing them around is a good enough guitar for me.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Jordan – Nowhere special, wherever I am, they are.

QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?

Jordan – A special place for capos. I’m a capo man & I always have to take it off & lose it in the abyss of tabs, notes, scales, & picks.

QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?

Jordan – If I can trade in my Jagmaster & my Xbox in for it or not.

QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?

Jordan – I think guitars are rightfully priced. Keeping nice guitars out of grubby handed young’un’s hands is a good thing. I don’t need the $1200 Jazzmaster I want & a nice Taylor or Martin wouldn’t last three shows with me.

QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?

Jordan – No, I stick to what I have usually. I think about it a lot & never go through with it. Unless you count adding a pickup to my acoustic. It’s the LR Baggs model; it’s a great pickup.

QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?

Jordan – Very much so. It’s more of a love affair/readying the nest kind of thing. Like looking a girl up on Facebook before going on a date with her.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Jordan – No, very rarely. Sometimes if I have to travel light or decide if I’m using my phonograph or tapes.

QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?

Jordan – I like my tone to be as close to the actual sound of my acoustic as possible. & then the noise to be as close to Flying Saucer Attack as possible.

QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?

Jordan – Aforementioned Jazzmaster & Twin Reverb. Fender owns my soul. I also would like a 12-string acoustic. Also, Fender Jaguars, Hopf Saturn, old archtop jazz guitars, the whole Devi-Ever pedal line, & some more Boss pedals would be nice too.

QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?

Jordan – Maybe soft strings or something. I always tell everyone I know that guitar is one of the easiest instruments to play & they stop because their fingers hurt. That & a built in laptop to look up their favorite artists’ tabs, that’s how I learned.

QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?

Jordan – Best was that LR Baggs pickup. It’s a solid Tim Duncan in my guitar squad, does all the work, performs wonderfully & doesn’t have an ego.  Worst was a Boss Distortion DS-1 that I stole from Best Buy. Thought I was cool for stealing it, then I plugged in the wrong adapter & it popped & smoke went everywhere. So, now it’s my albatross in my pedal collection. A busted DS-1.

QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?

Jordan – I’m not crazy about Line 6 amps & amp modeling. I like amps to have their own personalities. All of those amps sound so digital as well. But some people like that for speed metal & all that. I also don’t like Deans & all those guitars that look like you could get stabbed by them.

QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?

Jordan – “The Moon” by The Microphones. It’s one of my favorite songs & I can check if the bass strings are in tune. I can tell high string notes by ear but have trouble with lower notes. Comes from my unavoidable Western conditioning.

QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?

Jordan – 17. I’m 19 now. Am I the youngest ever on QRD? I’m only two years older than QRD, hope Brian is okay with that.

QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?

Jordan – Definitely now. I work very hard at guitar playing I must say. One of the few things I work really hard at. I finally feel at home with a guitar & I sometimes even improvise live. Beforehand, everything was very heavily rehearsed & composed (even when I went into practice sessions with other band members).

QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?

Jordan – I believe I think in patterns & guitar rewards that. It’s a very pattern oriented instrument, with fingerpicking patterns & chord progressions. I also feel at home with its universality & variety. Guitar is probably (next to voice) the most varied instrument in style. You have jazz, rock, experimental, metal & world & millions of styles therein. & no two guitarists are the same, which may be true for other instruments; I might be biased.

QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?

Jordan – No, I do love guitar but I think piano should come first. Piano is a wonderful visualization of notes & our Western 12 note system that we use. Even for experimental musicians, knowing piano is incredibly important.

QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?

Jordan – Definitely as an ally. I see my writing process as wandering around with my guitar & me picking out what sounds I want to. So, I may steer & select, but it really all comes from the guitar.

QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?

Jordan – Firstly & foremost Phil Elvrum of The Microphones/Mount Eerie. Also, Flying Saucer Attack, Rob Crow of Pinback, The Tallest Man On Earth, Six Organs of Admittance, Thuja, CJ Boyd, & Remora.

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?

Jordan – A little bit, if it gets out of hand. I only go as far as using female pronouns for my acoustic & sometimes referring to my Jagmaster as Jagmeister with a soft J, as my friend Thorbjorn called it in honor of him. I haven’t slept with any of them yet or anything like that.

QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?

Jordan – Very recently cracking the headstock by dropping/throwing my guitar. I’ve also cracked both of my guitars by hitting them against cymbals. It’s a shame that doing so makes such great noises. I love the sound of all your pedals on & a dropped guitar. Beautiful.

QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?

Jordan – Work on fingerpicking patterns with or without a guitar. I’ll tap on a table or just use a simple G major chord & see how many different ways I can pick it.

QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?

Jordan – I try to play at least one hour a day. If I’m not busy or just not paying attention I can play for 3 hours no problem. I’d love to just live in the country side & do nothing but play guitar & teach myself cello, but I have to go to college right now.

QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?

Jordan – I use those blue ones with the turtle on them. Tortex? I use them because they’re made in America, they’re covered in chalk & they have the perfect balance of hardness & flexibility. You can tremolo pick, strum or pick with those things. Not that I use picks for much of anything except hard strumming. I’m a fingerpicking kinda guy.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Jordan – Elixir mediums on my acoustic. D’Addario Jazz/Rock on my electric. Elixirs because they just sound great & are golden. Jazz/Rock’s because they sound okay & break a lot.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Jordan – When I break them or they just look gross.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Jordan – Acoustic, rarely. Electric way too often. I forget that electrics don’t matter how hard you strum them.

QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?

Jordan – For the longest time, I’ve put more emphasis on my strumming hand for fingerpicking. But I’ve been trying to match them by adding embellishments with hammer-ons during picking. Getting fancy. Also, I really hate barre chords. Does anyone actually use those stupid things?

QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?

Jordan – I’m really terrible about things like string action & fret buzz so I usually just ignore it & live with it. I don’t mind some fret buzz on high frets, since when I’m using those frets I usually have all my pedals on anyway. So, no I rarely do it myself or send it to a tech.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Jordan – Standard & lots of capo. Whenever I toy with tunings, I end up ruining guitars. Like I once borrowed my best friend Daniel’s Squier Strat after my electric was stolen. In grieving my stolen guitar, I painted the Strat & put in a low F-G-C-D-D-low F tuning. Putting a low E string where a high E goes pretty much destroyed that guitar. It sure sounded cool though.

QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?

Jordan – With my own ideas, I try to keep them to memory. That’s how I know they’re good & worthwhile to me. I’ll tab out themes sometimes & other times write down chord patterns. When I get a collection of songs down pat I write them all down together.

QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?

Jordan – Pretty low.

QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?

Jordan – Switching from fingerpicking to pick strumming faster. I just don’t practice it.

QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?

Jordan – For me, banjo & bass.

QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?

Jordan – Barre chords to see if they’re actually worth it. That or rhythm guitar. Being able to blend into a band better would be awesome for me.

QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?

Jordan – Learning note placement.

QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?

Jordan – Hammer-ons during fingerpicking. Makes you sound REAL fancy.

QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?

Jordan – Capo for sure. They’re cheap & open up so many possibilities for sure. I’d love an ebow, but they’re too expensive for me to rationalize buying one for myself. Rather get a new pedal or a cheap Squier Strat.

QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?

Jordan – Bends & tremolo bars. For someone who loves dissonance, I can’t seem to find a way to utilize these techniques.

QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?

Jordan – Before I started teaching myself, a man named Cyrus Pace gave me a couple lessons. I learned a G Major Chord, that’s all.

QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?

Jordan – Lose your pick in between every song, throw your glasses off as you play & fingerpick.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Jordan – I’ve never been able to use them with a clean tone. From a design perspective, I think they look great. I have a Jagmaster, which is basically a Jazzmaster with humbuckers & a Strat tremolo instead. With that tiny tremolo system, it just doesn’t look nearly as beautiful.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Jordan – I like putting it all the way down & having that Grouper tone. You know, like your underwater or something. Rarely in serious situations though.

QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?

Jordan – I see the lead as the person who directs the song, both compositionally & sonically.

QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?

Jordan – Not usually. As much as I love guitar, I usually look for singing if there is anyway, than just basic band dynamics.

QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?

Jordan – Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine’s Jazzmaster. I’m waiting & hoping for the day they release a signature Jazzmaster for him & Tom Verlaine of Television. I’d also love to have that cool archtop acoustic that Jeff Mangum always used. I think it was a Silvertone?

QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?

Jordan – I’m a big fan of Rob Crow of Pinback, it’s so good because it’s technical but you can’t even tell. It’s tight, spindly & melodic but not showy He plays a lot of piccolo bass too, which is a sweet instrument you don’t see much of. My other favorite guitarist is whoever arranges guitar for Dilute. Some of the most beautiful stuff I’ve ever heard with just a clean tone. I’m jealous of that. I also love the guitar work of Storm & Stress, The Tallest Man on Earth, Mount Eerie, & Do Make Say Think.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Jordan – In my newest songs, a collection of songs entitled Archipelago. Songs about how man is not an island, but a chain of islands. It’s me finding me place between The Tallest Man On Earth & Dilute stylistically. I’m gonna record them all acoustic & release them off of my label, Personal Records.

QRD – Anything else?

Jordan – Silber, & now QRD, has always been so good to me for little to no reason. Big thanks to Brian & CJ Boyd; you guys are my music mentors & you might not even realize it.